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Family files suit against nursing home in woman’s 2011 homicide

Family members who say a woman died in 2011 after being pushed by another resident in a Fort Wayne nursing home have filed suit against the nursing home’s owner and operator.

Lawyers representing the family of Betty J. Riley said they filed suit Monday in the Indiana Department of Insurance against the two companies that own and operate Summit City Nursing & Rehabilitation, 2940 N. Clinton St., where the suit alleges Riley was injured in a way that led to her death 10 days later.

The lawsuit and a news release issued by the lawyers said Riley, 88, died Dec. 13, 2011, after she developed a subdural and subarachnoid hematoma caused by a fall at the nursing home Dec. 3, 2011 – a fall caused by a shove from another resident.

The suit also alleges that “her family was not told about the fall, which caused an egg-sized hematoma on the back of her head, until she was taken to Parkview Hospital on Dec. 5, 2011 with slurred speech and facial drooping. No nursing home personnel accompanied Betty to the hospital with the medics, and Betty was unable to explain what happened. Nursing home administrators later told the family that ” `a few days ago Betty had a stroke which caused her to fall and hit her head.’ “

The Allen County Coroner’s Office ruled the death a homicide Dec. 30, 2011, because it resulted from another person’s actions. The coroner’s office didn’t release information on the death earlier because it wasn’t immediately reported to authorities. At that time, the nursing home’s administrators declined to comment on the finding.

In their news release, the family’s attorneys added, “When family members then went to the facility to discuss the situation – their mother’s homicide at the facility – the administrators on site hid in an office and refused to meet with the family.”

Officials of American Senior Communities, which operates the nursing home, have not responded to a request for comment on the allegations. The Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County owns the nursing home.

The release says the Indiana State Department of Health investigated the circumstances surrounding Riley’s death.

“After conducting an investigation, the ISDH determined that the facility failed to provide adequate supervision in the dining room of the secured Alzheimer’s Unit to prevent falls and resident altercations which result in fall, injury, hospitalization, and death. The ISDH also cited Summit City for poor record-keeping and for failing to notify the coroner of (Riley’s) death as required by law,” the release said.

The family is represented by attorneys Stephen M. Wagner of Carmel and Robert J. Boughter of Fort Wayne.

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